"The Simpsons" Is Replacing the Actor Behind This Beloved Character
The show is aiming for more racially accurate voice casting.
Now in its 32nd season, The Simpsons has one of the longest legacies in television history. And, as time moves forward and the animated comedy continues, the show is reckoning with some problematic choices made in the past. News broke on Feb. 22 that another iconic Simpsons character has been recast in the name of racial accuracy. Read on to learn what to expect from this change and why The Simpsons is addressing the issue now. And for more shows you can watch on its streaming home, here are 13 Shows You Can Watch on Disney+ From Start to Finish This Weekend.
Dr. Hibbert will now be voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson.
As reported by Vulture, Dr. Julius Hibbert, Springfield's most easygoing medical professional, will be voiced by a different actor for the first time since his first appearance on the show, way back in 1990. Prolific voice performer Kevin Michael Richardson has already voiced a number of more minor characters on the series, though he's probably most recognizable for playing Jerome and Cleveland Brown Jr. on Family Guy. He'll be taking over the role of Dr. Hibbert from Harry Shearer, who is white, as of the Feb. 28 episode.
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Shearer isn't leaving the show entirely.
Per Vulture's report, Shearer stepped down from voicing Hibbert but will continue to give voice to many residents of Springfield, including Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner, and more. Like several of his castmates, the 77-year-old actor has been with the series since the very beginning.
For more on The Simpsons and other classic series, This Is the Most Popular TV Show of All Time.
Animated shows including The Simpsons have faced criticism for having white actors voice non-white characters.
Dr. Hibbert is not the first Simpsons character to be recast for racial accuracy. Alex Désert has replaced Hank Azaria as the voice of Homer's drinking buddy Carl, who is Black. And Azaria will also no longer be voicing Indian convenience store owner Apu, though The Simpsons has not yet announced who will be taking his place. (The actor retired from voicing Apu of his own accord in response to an existing conversation that was further stoked by the 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu, which examines the enduring stereotypes the character represents.)
So the Dr. Hibbert news is not unexpected, as the show's producers released a statement last summer declaring that no non-white characters would be played by white actors from that point forward. Other animated shows, including Family Guy and Big Mouth, have also recast characters of color for the same reason.
For another comedy that's faced criticism, check out The Office Actor Is Calling Out a Fan-Favorite Episode for Being Racist.
Shearer seemed unsure about the new policy in the past.
In response to the producers' announcement, Shearer was asked about the show's new directive in an interview with Times Radio (via Deadline) in Aug. 2020. "People from all backgrounds should be represented in the writing and producing ends of the business so they help decide what stories to tell and with what knowledge," he said.
But while he acknowledged the need for representation, Shearer didn't seem to see the issue as one of who gives the performance. "The job of the actor is to play someone who they’re not," he added. "That’s the gig. That’s the job description."
Shearer was quick to point out that his opinion didn't stem from a dip in compensation, saying, "We don't get paid by the voice." He's yet to comment on handing over the role of Dr. Hibbert.
For more media that hasn't aged perfectly, here are 11 Classic '90s Movies That Have Been Called Out for Racism.